Water pipe break torments city crews

A Cortez city crew works at Main and Harrison street Tuesday after repairing the water pipe that broke last week. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

A Cortez city crew works at Main and Harrison street Tuesday after repairing the water pipe that broke last week.

The water pipe break on Main and Harrison streets that occurred last Thursday resulted in several businesses being without water for a short time.

At Tuesday's Cortez City Council meeting, City Manager Shane Hale said one of the issues that occurred following the break was finding the right valve to turn off the water. This was a necessity before workers could go in to repair the pipe that was estimated to be between 40 to 50 years old.

After several attempts to find the correct valve, which required digging up other sections, city maintenance workers were able to find the right valve turnoff on Chestnut Street.

Hale said crews went to the city map to determine where the correct water valve was located, and each valve that was uncovered to turn off took 45 minutes to an hour.

After about 24 hours of work, all the businesses and residences impacted had their water restored, Hale said.

Businesses impacted by the loss of water the most included the Best Western Turquoise Inn and Suites, Mr. Happy's and Super 8 as well as any business between Harrison and Chestnut streets being served by that water line.

Another slight holdup came after the Colorado Department of Transportation told the city that concrete traffic barricades had to be installed before work could begin. The barricades, which have shut down the eastbound lane on Main Street, were in place Friday afternoon.

The city worked on the pipe break Friday until dark and resumed the repairs Saturday at 7 a.m.

While the repairs to the pipe have been made, more work still needs to be done.

Public Works Director Jack Nickerson said concrete will be poured today. The barricades are scheduled to come down next Tuesday.

"They stuck with it and plugged through it," Hale said of the city staff that responded to the water break. "It was a major break."

Part of the problem was the 50 years of concrete that covered the pipes and valves. Many of the valves broke after not being turned for more than 40 years, Hale said.

Some valve turnoffs were also located near gas lines, so the city had to use hand tools in efforts to be extremely careful while digging.

The break also convinced Hale that this type of incident will not be a one-time occurrence in the city.

"I fear we will be repairing that infrastructure quite often (in the future)," which he added will cost about $50,000 each time a repair is needed.

"We just have to deal with it right now," the city manager said.

The cause of the break, Hale said, was that the bolts holding the pipe together became rusted over time and gave out, possibly by the 40 to 50 years of constant traffic on the roadway where the underground pipe had been placed.

"It was a Murphy's Law project," Hale said after the meeting. "We had to face a lot of adversity."

The concrete barricade has completely closed down the south access to Harrison Street off Main Street. This has impacted parking access to a few businesses, including Cork and Bottle liquor store, the Super 8 and Jimmer's Back Country BBQ.

Mayor Dan Porter thanked the community for its understanding, realizing the city was working to fix the problem.

"The citizens stood with us pretty good," he said. "The citizens on Main Street hung tough."